When you teach children to love themselves, they feel better, perform better and are more comfortable being themselves around other people.
I recently worked with a young girl, Sally (age 14), who was shy. Her mother was concerned about her lack of social life. When I first met with Sally, she was reluctant. Her prior counselor had given her homework she was not able to complete. The assignment: At school, approach a stranger and start a conversation; By midweek, make plans with one of your friends for the weekend. Sally wasn’t able to do either, which made her feel worse than she was before. She already felt bad for being shy, but now felt the added emotion of failure because she was not able to fulfill her counselor’s recommended homework, even though the tasks seemed simple. The result? Sally became more self-critical of her “shyness” and her ability to act in order to fix it.
You see, what most don’t realize is that children “know” what they need to do to socialize. They see many kids doing it in school. That’s not the issue. The issue is that Sally isn’t shy; she simply does not feel comfortable with herself, so she doesn’t feel comfortable socializing.
Asking a child who feels insecure within herself to start a conversation or make plans with a friend is IMPOSSIBLE. The reason she isn’t able to fulfill this seemingly simple task is because the root issue is not being addressed: her lack of self-esteem. Sally is not socializing because she feels unsure of who she is, compares herself to others and tends to be self-critical of herself in her own mind. So, it’s counterproductive to encourage action on her part which, at this stage, is too advanced and will only set her up for feeling like she failed again.
Therefore, if you have a child similar to Sally, who is shy or maybe lacks friends, then do the only thing you can do: improve your child’s self-esteem. If your child isn’t shy at home, innately your child isn’t shy. It’s as simple as that. Children who have an improved self-image discover how to love life and most of all, love themselves. And when that happens, their social life improves. Imagine that?
The end result: after completing my program, Sally found the confidence within herself. She stopped feeling bad about herself and stopped feeling as if something was wrong. Nothing was wrong with her, aside from not knowing her true worthiness. And, because she learned to love herself first, instead of begging her mom to change schools to find new friends, she formed new friends and even became more involved in school activities, all because she understood that the only thing necessary was loving herself first.